California Lemon Law Time Limit

by Aryn Plax

Oct 1, 2020

In California, the lemon law has a time limit. This time limit is called the “statute of limitations.” This statute is the length of time during which someone can file a lawsuit. If this time limit passes, the legal claim is no longer valid.

This statute of limitations places a restriction on anyone who wants to file a lemon lawsuit in California.

How Does the California Lemon Law Time Limit Work?

The statute of limitations, or the lemon law time limit, is the maximum amount of time that someone has to start a California lemon law claim. In this case, potential lemon owners have four years before their potential claim is no longer valid.

A common misconception is that the clock starts ticking when you first buy or lease the vehicle. However, this is not true. Under the California Lemon Law, you have four years from when the vehicle started experiencing a defect that is covered by the warranty.

Under the lemon law, a defect is a problem that substantially impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle, and the manufacturer or its dealerships cannot fix the problem within a reasonable number of attempts during the warranty period.

Generally, you have four years from when your vehicle first experiences a defect. However, you should not wait for this deadline to expire, nor should you wait to get repairs on your vehicle. You have to give the manufacturer or its dealerships a reasonable number of chances to try to fix your vehicle. If you suspect that your vehicle is a lemon, you should contact a California lemon law attorney to discuss your potential claim. The lemon law process often starts with a free initial consultation.

Why is the California Lemon Law Time Limit Four Years?

The California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 337 states that you have four years to file a lawsuit for a breach of contract if it is a written contract. A lemon law claim asserts that an auto manufacturer is violating a contract. That’s why the California lemon law time limit is four years.

The lemon law exists to make sure that auto manufacturers abide by the terms of their own warranties. A warranty is a promise that a product – in this case, a car – works as intended, and if it breaks, the manufacturer can fix it during a specified period.

An express warranty is a written statement in which an auto manufacturer offers free repairs for a faulty vehicle or a faulty part for a length of time specified in the warranty. If a problem occurs in your vehicle during the warranty period, and the auto manufacturer is unwilling or unable to fix it according to the terms of its warranty, it is essentially breaking the promise it made to you when you purchased that vehicle.

Can I Pursue A California Lemon Law Claim Even After The Warranty Expired?

Yes, you can pursue a lemon lawsuit in California, even if your vehicle’s warranty has expired. What matters is that you had a reasonable number of repair attempts made on the car, and those repair attempts took place during the warranty period.

The California lemon law time limit starts when your vehicle first has warrantable problems that impair use, value or safety. This is typically determined by your first repair visit related to the defect. The timing of this first repair visit can affect how long you have to file a case and the amount you could receive in cash compensation. The later the defect took place, the less money you’ll typically get back if the auto manufacturer repurchases your vehicle.

What Can I Get For My Defective Vehicle Under The California Lemon Law?

Under the California Lemon Law, those who purchased defective vehicles may be eligible for a vehicle replacement or a full refund (lemon law buyback), minus a mileage-based offset. The number of “good miles” you got out of your vehicle before the defect appeared determines this mileage-based offset. This mileage is taken from the time you first got a repair related to the defect.

As for the vehicle replacement, the replacement has to be nearly identical to your current vehicle model. The vehicle has to come with all applicable warranties that usually come with that vehicle model. The auto manufacturer also has to cover sales tax, license fees, registration fees and other fees related to that replacement vehicle.

Do Not Wait To File A California Lemon Law Claim

Consult a lemon law attorney about your potentially defective vehicle. Lemon law consultations are free, and lemon law representation comes at no out-of-pocket costs to you. We only get paid if you win. If you win, the auto manufacturer is required to pay your attorneys’ fees and costs.

Do not wait too long to take advantage of lemon law services, which often come at no out-of-pocket cost to you. If the time limit for a lemon law case passes, you will be barred from pursuing a claim for your vehicle.

If you suspect that your vehicle is a lemon, or if you want to know more about the California Lemon Law, get a free consultation by calling us at our toll free number: 877-222-2222.


Knight Law Group is an automotive lemon law firm that exclusively practices in California. If you are a California resident who purchased or leased a defective vehicle from a licensed dealership in California, we may be able to help you get rid of your potential lemon and recover significant cash compensation. Model year restrictions apply: 2016–Present vehicle models only.

However, we cannot help those who reside outside of California or purchased their vehicle outside of California unless they are active duty members of the Armed Forces, nor will we be able to refer those to a lemon law firm in their states. To learn more about the California Lemon Law and your legal rights, visit our California Lemon Law Guide for more information.